Rural round-up


New evidence that A1 relative to A2 beta-casein affects digestive function – Keith Woodford:

A new paper has been published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition titled “Dietary A1 beta-casein affects gastrointestinal transit time, dipeptidyl peptidase-4 activity, and inflammatory status relative to A2 b-casein in Wistar rats”

The key findings are:
1. A1 beta casein slows down transit of food through the digestive system relative to A2 beta-casein and this is an opioid effect.
2. A1 beta-casein induces a pro- inflammatory effect in the colon which is also an opioid effect.
3. A1 beta casein relative to A2 beta-casein causes up-regulation of the enzyme DPP4 in the small intestine and this is apparently a non-opioid effect.
4. In contrast to the A1 beta-casein, there is no evidence of opioid effects from the A2 beta-casein in relation to either food transit times or pro-inflammatory effects. . . .

Benefits of collaboration – Sally Rae:

Collaboration and partnerships.

Two words mentioned often during a Federated Farmers high country field day in the upper Waitaki last week.

It was a fitting location for such an event, with what could be dubbed the ”green versus brown” debate a very hot issue in both the upper Waitaki and neighbouring Mackenzie districts.

Starting in Twizel, about 140 people travelled in a convoy of vehicles through Doug McIntyre’s dairy farm operation, on to Ohau Downs, where Kees Zeestraten is battling to bring irrigation to his property, then through Ribbonwood Station and into the Ahuriri Valley before viewing irrigation development at Tara Hills near Omarama. . .

Millions spent but no irrigation yet – Sally Rae:

Kees Zeestraten has spent close to $3 million trying to get water to irrigate Ohau Downs.

He admitted he was ”gutted” it had cost so much to get to that point – and still not have water.

Meanwhile, the flats of the 5200ha Omarama property, where he intended to do his irrigation development, were, as North Otago Federated Farmers high country chairman Simon Williamson said, ”pretty depleted”, with hieracium taking over and tussocks struggling to survive.

”In general, you would not say it’s in great health. It’s certainly not knee-high tussocks waving in the wind,” Mr Williamson said. . .

Green hues advancing in the high country – Sally Rae:

‘You wouldn’t get a better landscape. Green is as much a part of it as the tawny brown landscape in the background. What are they worrying about? It fits in.”

That was the comment of High Country Accord chairman Jonathan Wallis, after viewing the result of irrigation development on Tara Hills at Omarama.

The contrast between the green, irrigated flats of the property and the surrounding brown hills was vivid.

The 3400ha station, best known as a research property, was bought by Dave Ellis two years ago. . .

Sorting out key issues – Bryan Gibson:

Prime Minister John Key will hope his visit to China last week will have done the trick in terms of reassuring the government in that country and the buying public that our milk products are safe and our food-safety regime is robust.

A report, covered in this week’s Farmers Weekly, says New Zealand’s infant formula industry is in pretty good shape, but faces many challenges as China looks to tame the “Wild West” market that has taken shape there.

Audits of this country’s processing plants by Chinese authorities are under way and there will be many eager to know the results. . .

Foundation’s Australian links pay off:

The Foundation for Arable Research says its foray into Australia last year is paying off.

Foundation chief executive Nick Pyke said the link with Australia enables it to leverage off the much larger investment in cropping research being carried out across the Tasman.

“We have had some involvement in programmes which are quite different for them (Australia) because of the way we grow crops here in New Zealand, so they have learnt from that”. . .

Auckland Hauraki Dairy Winners Dominant:

The major winners in the 2014 Auckland Hauraki Dairy Industry Awards, Bryce and Rosemarie Costar, have well achievable goals to keep them focused and heading in the right direction.

The Onewhero couple were named the region’s Sharemilker/Equity Farmers of the Year at an awards dinner in Pukekohe last night . Ngatea contract milker Simon Player was named the 2014 Auckland Hauraki Farm Manager of the Year and Paeroa dairy farm assistant Marion Reynolds won the region’s Dairy Trainee of the Year title.

Bryce and Rosemarie Costar are 55% sharemilking 300 cows on a family farm owned by Bill Costar. They won $20,200 in prizes. . .

Pastoral lease rent changes welcomed


Proposed changes to the way rents are calculated on pastoral lease properties has been welcomed by farmers.

The previous administration had changed the way rents were set to include amenity values. They also reflected inflated values paid by the government and overseas purchasers, including Shania Twain.

The result was that properties with good views or close to lakes had to pay much higher rents which were completely unrelated to the earning capacity of the land.

In a media release, High Country Accord chair Jonathan Wallis said that farmers had never sought anything other than a fair rent which reflects the rights and obligations of the parties under the leases.

 “The new system brings transparency and certainty to a process that was becoming increasingly complex and costly to implement correctly.” 

Perhaps the last significant alienation of Crown land, pastoral leases were created under the Land Act 1948. They were seen as the ideal form of tenure set to balance the relative demands of pastoralism, with the needs of conservation in lands already identified as requiring separate management to other classes of rural land. 

“The purpose of the legislation, created more than 60-years ago, remains as valid today as it did then,” says Mr Wallis. 

“The Crown chose to retain an interest in how the land was managed through constraining the land use through the terms of the lease and the provisions of the Land Act. However, although the Crown retained an interest in how the land was managed, the majority of rights to the land were retained by the lessees, not unlike freehold ownership.” 

“The incentive for farmers to invest and transform what were once termed ‘wastelands of the Crown’ into economically and environmentally sustainable enterprises came in the perpetually renewable nature of the lease, implicit that rent could only be charged against the unimproved pastoral proposition with all improvements remaining the property of the lessee.” 

The contractual nature of the lease meant considerable consultation between the Government and the lessees was required to ensure the balance of property rights remained unchanged from one system to the next.

Mr Wallis says it would be wrong to assume that agreement was reached on every last component but he has acknowledged the extremely high standard of input and review from independent experts in developing this policy.

He says the challenge of moving to a different system of setting rents with more transparency was to leave the essential property rights of high country farmers unchanged.

“The new system does not change the fundamental nature of the lease but unlike the current system for setting rents which has a fixed rental rate, the new system incorporates a variable rate to allow the rent to more closely follow the economics of pastoral farming.”

 “The current policy towards Crown Pastoral Land is a refreshing contrast to recent times which has certainly taken its toll on the high country community both from a social and financial perspective.”

 “The Government has looked to a rational solution for setting rents in accordance with the law and not in a manner which suits those who have a particular axe to grind from time to time. I applaud them for this sensible approach,” says Mr Wallis. 

Federated Farmers also welcomed the changes:

Federated Farmers is welcoming the Land Information Minister, the Hon Maurice Williamson’s, announcement approving a new system for setting rents for South Island high country pastoral leases.

“We think that the Earning Capacity Rent has the possibility to work effectively, so we’re welcoming it with cautious optimism,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers vice-president.

“The High Country Accord has been working arduously to get these new rents, which will be based on a property’s earning capacity and we’d like to congratulate them for their efforts.

“Although I’m optimistic about the changes, I’m slightly disappointed that we were unable to get greater relief for those facing back rents of up to five years.

“This will place a considerable financial burden on these farmers, but we’re happy to see that Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is prepared to accept the payments over five years.

The proposed changes announced by Minister of Land Information Maurice Williamson and Agriculture Minister David Carter require  legislation which the ministers hope to have before the house later this year.

Mr Williamson says the new system for setting rents takes into account a number of factors, including the productive capacity of the lease and pastoral economic conditions.

“The way rents are currently calculated is complicated and costly and often produces disputes over both the process used and the result,” he says.

Agriculture Minister David Carter says the new system will provide greater certainty to farmers.

“It is simpler to administer, more transparent and provides a fair rent. It will allow farmers to get on with the job of farming and looking after the high country rather than fighting bureaucracy.”

There are 231 pastoral leases, mainly in Canterbury and Central Otago, which cover around 1.6 million hectares of pastoral land.

The ODT reports:

Modelling by Government officials shows the new system will not alter the total amount of rent it collects from lessees, but should remove disputes over the rent-setting process, which had prompted more than half the 231 South Island lessees to dispute their latest rent reviews.

The proposed system will base rents on farm productivity and current livestock values, which the Government says is a transparent and objective process.

This calculation would happen every 11 years and take into account a farm’s carrying capacity in its unimproved state, or base, then the subsequent increase in numbers, with the rent charged on a per livestock unit basis.

Under the land value based system, rent was calculated every 11 years at 2.25% of the value of land exclusive of improvements.

The two systems recognised that the Crown owns the land in an unimproved state but the lessee owns the improvements such as fertiliser, pasture, tracks, fences and buildings.

Forest and Bird isn’t as positive as farmers:

Forest and Bird South Island conservation manager Chris Todd said he had hoped the rentals would be based on a system that was more wide ranging.

“We were a bit disappointed that the review didn’t include the idea of rewarding good environmental stewardship with rental discounts.”

This would provide incentives for high country farmers to undertake activities such as carbon farming or retiring areas of the lease to protect fragile soils.


`What we want is incentives to look after the land. It’s still an incredibly good deal for anyone who’s farming to get a rent that’s comparable for a whole farm to a unit in the city.”

Their main concern was the way in which these lands were cared for. There were a lot of issues such as wilding trees, pests, overgrazing and they were going backwards in their biodiversity, Mr Todd said.

It is not possible to make a comparison between pastoral leases and units in a city. Pastoral leases are for land exclusive of improvements, a principle which has been tested in the courts.

Leaseholders are restricted to pastoral farming. They require permission for any other activities and rents are adjusted if that increases the earning capacity.

The Crown didn’t want what they described as “wastelands” when the leases were established and it’s farmers’ good stewardship which has protected the often fragile environment on these high country properties.

Ex-minister wants to waste more money


The ex-Minister of Lands David Parker is urging the Crown to appeal the Otago District Land Value Tribunal’s decision that amenity values shouldn’t be taken into account when setting rents for pastoral leases.

He said last week’s Otago District Land Valuation Tribunal ruling meant the rent-setting methodology created a large discount to what he considered was proper rent, and would increase land prices to the point where only wealthy overseas investors could afford to buy the land.

He was the one behind the inclusion of amenity values in pastoral rents. The subsequent legal battle ahs already cost the taxpayer and pastoral lessees hundreds of thousands of dollars and the ruling makes it quite clear he was wrong.

He didn’t understand the issue when he was a minister and still doesn’t.

Rent for pastoral leases is based on land exclusive of improvements and leases tightly proscribe what leaseholders can do with the land. Regardless of the beauty of the surroundings, pastoral leases are for pastoral farming. Meat, wool and leather don’t earn a premium because the sheep and cattle from which they came enjoyed the view while they were grazing.

Fortunately Parker’s no longer in government and the people who are have a much better grasp on the issue.

Agriculture Minister David Carter told the ODT he expects pastoral lessees to welcome the new policy for the high country which is to be released soon.

Asked about last Friday’s land valuation tribunal ruling on rent-setting methodology, which found in favour of pastoral lessees, Mr Carter said it was a victory for farmers. High-country farmers had a role in managing the “difficult and fragile environment, in many cases better than some Wellington-based bureaucrat,” he said.

High Country Accord chair and Minaret Station owner, Jonathon Wallis said in a newsletter to accord members:

As a result of the decision, the rent on Minaret Station will increase by 400 per cent from the previous rental set 11 years before, but this a sixth of the rent proposed by the Crown.

 “For many farmers, the rent sought by the Crown exceeded the gross income from the farm. There is nothing rational in that,” states Mr. Wallis.

 He says the persistent attacks and treatment of high country farmers by the previous government were cynically motivated.

 “The tribunal reflects this in its criticism of the previous government for choosing ‘to direct and demand of its valuers a process that is intended to achieve a particular outcome’.”

 This issue has caused a lot of anxiety for farmers, some of whom had been farming the land for generations. Had amenity values been taken into account when assessing rents pastoral farming would no longer have been viable on many properties.

That may well have been the ultimate aim of the previous administration which failed to understand the role pastoral farming has played in the conservation of the high country.

David Carter has made it clear the current administration has a much better understanding of the issue and while it is up to LINZ to appeal the decision or not, it is obvious the government would not be in favour of wasting any more money on this exercise in futility.

LVT backs farmers on amenity values


The Otago Land Valuation Tribunal has backed farmers in their case against the inclusion of amenity values in rents for high country pastoral leasehold land.

This is a victory for farmers and common sense.

The previous government had instructed valuers to include amenity values including views and privacy when assessing rents farmers with pastoral leases pay.

It would have meant steep increases in the cost of farming the high country which bore no relationship to its earning potential.

Rents have always been set on land exclusive of improvements and the tribunal’s ruling has backed this stance.

Jonathon and Annabel Wallis of Minaret Station took a test case to the tribunal with the support of the High Country Accord.

It has been an expensive and worrying process for them and their supporters.

The ruling could be appealed but the change of government makes that unlikely.

Ministers have been careful not to pre-empt the judgement but earlier statements from them on the matter suggest they will not only accept the tribunal’s ruling, they will be supportive of it.

Alf Grumble’s approval of the ruling suggests he will be lobbying for that. Although I suspect that won’t be necessary because unlike the previous administration this one appreciates that a sheep isn’t worth any more because the land it grazes has a good view.

The ODT and Southland Times have reports on the case.

Fish & Game’s failed court bid could be costly


The ODT reports that Fish and Game’s failed challenge to pastoral lessees’ property rights could cost it a six-figure sum.

The two respondents to the High Court action instigated by Fish and Game, the High Country Accord, representing pastoral lessees, and their landlord, Land Information New Zealand (Linz), have both said they are seeking reimbursement of their costs.

The High Country Accord has said the case cost it $250,000, while Linz would not reveal its costs or how much it was seeking from the action heard by the High Court in Wellington.

While Fish and Game is not funded by taxpayers, it gets its money from the sale of fishing and hunting licences, it is a public entity, established by statute, which reports to the Minister of Conservation.

Its attempt to gain public access to pastoral lease properties was in effect one public body taking another to court.

It wasted money which should have been spent managing, enhancing and and maintaining sports fish and game in that action and it’s now likely that much more of the licence fees paid by anglers and hunters will go towards reimbursing the costs of the respondents.

Carter questions court action – Updated


Agriculture Minister David Carter is questioning Fish & Game’s leadership  after its failed attempt to gain public access to pastoral lease land.

“I seriously question the use of hunting and fishing licensing fees in taking this action, and I will be discussing this further with the Minister of Conservation.

“I am concerned this divisive action was taken when there was no foundation for Fish and Game’s claim for greater public access to high country stations.

“A pastoral lease gives the runholder the right to say who has access to their leasehold land. This is no different from private property owners,” says Mr Carter.

“The fundamental duty of Fish and Game is to advocate for hunters and fishers, and to help enhance their relationship with rural landowners. . . “

How refreshing to have a Minister who stands up for farmers and rightly questions whether Fish and Game should be using licence fees for its political and litigious campaigns.

Anecdotal evidence from hunters and fishers suggest the Minister is more in touch with their concerns than the body their licence fees funds.

This misguided court action was expensive for licence holders, tax payers and farmers and it’s not just money but goodwill that was wasted.


Federated Farmers said the court action was a disaster:

The challenge was a failed attempt to by-pass all the work associated with walking access and it is a spiteful and damaging waste of the fishing and hunting license fee money. . .

“This decision brings relief for affected High Country farming families, as they now know Fish & Game members won’t be entitled to walk all over them,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers High Country chairman.

Both Federated Farmers and the High Country Accord played an instrumental role in the formation and development of the Walking Access Commission.

“We have contributed positively to the development of rules for public access that give pastoral leaseholders and their families security and certainty. Meanwhile, Fish & Game’s Executive has sadly played nothing but a negative and destructive role. . .

“High Country pastoral leases impose strict conditions on us as farmers. The judgment acknowledges that leaseholders are responsible for much more than just grass.

“It’s only right that farmers have the ability to control and manage access to such land. This decision enables pastoral leaseholders to operate a business and maintain authority over their property rights contained in their leases. 

“The High Court’s judgement also recognises that pastoral leaseholders perform a stewardship role. In other words, we farm with the High Country and not against it. . .

“Fish & Game chief executive, Bryce Johnston, now needs to take a long hard long look at his and his Council’s decision to waste a vast amount of license fee money on this challenge.

“Federated Farmers consider it also time for the Government to look at the legislative privilege that enables Fish & Game to fund such frivolous litigation. This inappropriate use of license fee money should not go unchecked by Government,” Mr Aubrey concluded.

High Country Accord chair Jonathon Wallis issued a media release in which he asked if the action was a misuse of funds.

“Not just the huge amount of money farmers have been forced to direct into these proceedings away from rejuvenating our economy through expanding and maintaining agricultural production, but both the vast amount of tax payer funds that went into jointly defending it and the allocation of precious funds more commonly used for the protection and establishment of habitat for our fish and game.”

“The latter are funds generated by the sale of Fish and Game licenses sold to hunters and anglers who for almost a century have respected the goodwill and relationships established between farmers and recreationalists regardless of it being a matter of privilege as opposed to right.”

“The question also has to be asked whether this was not just a personal crusade by an executive distorted from the opinion of the general membership of Fish and Game itself.”

Wallis said he allowed licensed duck shooters on to his property on opening morning because he wasn’t blaming them for the actions of the national council.

Alf Grumble and The Bull Pen also post on the issue.

Healing the rift in the high country


Pastoral  lessees head for court with LINZ today to defend their property rights  against an attempt by Fish and Game to establish the right to roam in the high country.

High Country Accord chairman Andrew Simpson estimated it would cost pastoral lessees $200,000 to defend but said the stakes were high.

“It’s a direct threat to our way of life and the ability of pastoral lessees to farm the land. We can’t farm if we don’t have some form of control over who enters our properties,” he said.

The case is being heard in the High Court at Wellington, and if successful would grant the public as-of-right access to pastoral lease land for recreation – so long as it did not interfere with the lessee’s exclusive right to pasture for grazing livestock.

 . . .  Fish and Game chief executive Bryce Johnson said his organisation was seeking a declaratory judgement on whether pastoral leases granted under the 1948 Land Act offered exclusive possession or exclusive occupancy of the land.

He will argue that pastoral leases only grant runholders exclusive rights to the pasture.

I hope the judge is familiar with Shakespeare because I think this argument is similar to the one which prompted Portia’s speech in The Merchant of Venice.

Tarry a little;—there is something else.—
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are, a pound of flesh:

The words expressly, with pastoral leases, are land exclusive of improvements.  The land is publicly owned but the improvements which include the fertility, grass, crops, tracks, trees, fences, gates, and buildings, are the property of the lessee.

I reckon that would preclude the right to roam because no-one could enter the property without touching at least some of those improvements.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, we can be grateful that the government wants to heal the rift which developed between pastoral lessees and the previous administration.

Lands Minister Richard Worth said the relationship between lessees and the previous government had collapsed, with farmers feeling there was no trust between the government as landlord and the lessee.

Mr Worth said in an interview he was committed to a relationship based on three policy planks his party campaigned on at the last election: voluntary, good-faith negotiations between runholders and the Government; ensuring rentals were tied to the earning capacity of the property; and recognition that runholders could be as effective land stewards as the Crown.

The inclusion of amenity values in determining rents for leashold land led to court because some lessees are being charged rentals which exceed their gross income just because the sheep and cattle have a view while grazing.

The case concluded last month but the judgement has yet to be released.

Without pre-empting that, there is no doubt this government has a more reasonable attitude to pastoral leases than the previous one.  As Agriculture Minsiter David Carter says:

“The land is not easy to manage and the fundamental question we now have to ask is how will the Doc manage its already 43% hold of the South Island.”

Mr Carter said Doc and other interested parties needed to work more closely with farming families who, in many cases, had farmed the land for several generations.

“They are the ones who have delivered us the landscapes we see today. They are the ones with the ability to manage it far more sustainably than any government department,” he said.

 The previous government was hung up on ownership. But conservation can be assured and access negotiated without wasting taxpayers’ money on purchasing land and the on-going costs of ownership.

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